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What are the common causes of chronic ankle pain?

1st Aug, 2022

Our amazing ankles

Our ankles are highly complex anatomical structures. They are very stable because of the structure of the bones and anatomy involved, but yet is required to be mobile to absorb shock and adapt to the surfaces that we walk on everyday. However, because they need to be mobile, and because they have to do so much, our ankles can be highly susceptible to injury.

With proper care and rehabilitation, ankle pain can be managed well, and its function can be restored following an injury, and re-injury can be prevented effectively. But if ankle pain becomes chronic, it should not be ignored.

What are the common causes of ankle pain?

Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that affects your joints. In the lower limb, two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Both are capable of causing swelling, stiffness, and pain to the ankle joint. 

In rheumatoid arthritis, it is an autoimmune disorder that causes your immune system to destroy structures surrounding your joint, leading to foot or hand deformities.

Osteoarthritis is also commonly known as a “wear and tear” type of arthritis, where the cartilage overlying the bones deteriorates, resulting in pain to the affected joints.

Fractures

Fractures are either partial, or complete breaks in the bone. Severe acute fractures in the ankle often happen in an injury, with the pain typically being very sharp and sudden. You will most likely know it if you have fractured your ankle. 

However, other types of fractures – such as stress fractures – may not be so noticeable at the initial stages. Stress fractures are tiny hairline cracks in the bone, and are most commonly observed in the lower limb and foot. Generally, they are caused by microtrauma to the bones and repetitive force from overuse – such as jumping, or running long distances. Stress fractures have the potential to start off small and get worse overtime, resulting in chronic pain if the aggravating factor is not managed properly and optimally.

Gout

To determine the type of arthritis you may have, your detailed medical history will be taken, together with a thorough physical examination and assessment. The diagnosis can be further confirmed through assessment of any X-ray or MRI scans that you may have performed.

Can ankle arthritis be treated?

Yes it can! There are several non-surgical conservative methods to manage ankle arthritis. Mild arthritis of the ankle may be managed through avoidance of high impact activities, as well as making more informed decisions about footwear.

  • Foot orthotics for ankle arthritis: a foot orthotic that is customised, offers protection to the ankle joint by conforming closely to your foot, offering adequate control. Custom orthotics will offer more optimal support as opposed to standardised off-the-shelf insoles.
  • Footwear modifications for ankle arthritis: in addition to corrective foot orthotics, appropriate footwear choices can help to reduce unwanted stress on the ankle joint as well. A rocker sole modification to your footwear can greatly reduce the stresses on your ankle.
  • Physiotherapy for ankle arthritis: in addition to the footwear modifications, our colleagues are also able to prescribe exercises for the ankle and lower that will address any weakness as a result of or leading to increased pain in the ankle. 

If conservative non-surgical methods do not effectively address your symptoms from ankle arthritis, and you keep experiencing significant ankle pain, we will be able to refer you onwards to a specialist Foot and Ankle Surgeon for further management. 

Keen to find out if your ankle pain can be managed at our Rehab Centre? Book now and so that you can speak with our Podiatrist to have your ankle pain addressed!

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